About - Mission

Founded in 2009, Youth OUTright WNC, Inc. (YO) is the only youth advocacy and leadership non-profit organization in the region solely dedicated to empowering lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning/queer, intersex, asexual and allied (LGBTQIA+) youth ages 14-20 in Western North Carolina. Based on 2010 U.S. Census figures, it is estimated that there could be more than 4,000 LGBTQ youth in our 18-county region.

We engage and support LGBTQIA+ youth ages 14-20 to be confident, resilient and compassionate community members.

We envision a world where youth of all gender and sexual identities are empowered to reach their full potential.

We provide information, support and resources in a safer, inclusive and affirming environment.

We believe that no youth – regardless of their sexual identity, gender expression or gender identification – should be bullied, harassed or discriminated against because of who they are or are perceived to be.

Youth OUTright WNC, Inc. is a 501(c) 3 organization.



  • 2006

    A group of gay and lesbian Asheville citizens began discussing the gap in programs and services for LGBTQ youth, an at-risk population often targeted for bullying and hate crimes, in WNC. Youth OUTright WNC, Inc. (YO) incorporated with the State of North Carolina, established by-laws, and created its first board of directors. The organization’s first public event held an information table at Asheville’s Blue Ridge Pride Festival.
  • 2008

    The organization became a program of PFLAG Asheville (Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays) and began providing services and initiated fundraising activities. YO held its first facilitator training program, which was conducted by representatives from Time Out Youth, a Charlotte based LGBTQ. High schools in WNC received literature announcing upcoming Friday meetings. YO held its first reception to introduce the organization, establish its mission, and to ask for volunteers.
  • 2009

    YO’s first youth group met January 30 at Jefferson House, a space donated by the Unitarian Universalist Church of Asheville, Four youth attended. In June, Youth OUTright WNC, Inc. was designated a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization by the IRS. Two hundred and five youth attended meetings in 2009.
  • 2010

    YO’s First Anniversary Party for youth, held at Firestorm Café and Books, included live entertainment, Thirty-five youth attended the Alt Prom, a socially inclusive event for youth, was held at Phil Mechanic Studios. Youth group meetings moved to First Congregational United Church of Christ in downtown Asheville on Sunday afternoons. In response to recent youth suicides, YO expanded its programming. Three hundred and twenty six youth visits were documented in 2010.
  • 2011

    YO’s first fundraising event, held at the historic Manor Inn, featured the premiere of the documentary Campaign 8, which depicted the personal experiences of YO youth and was produced and directed by Robert Gaston. One hundred and thirty people attended. In September, YO contracted its first part-time executive director. Cumulative youth meeting visits reached 816.
  • 2012

    At the Renaissance Asheville Hotel, YO premiered A Million Reasons featuring interviews with a cross-section of multigenerational Asheville citizens regarding their personal experiences with LGBTQ issues. The first newsletter was produced and the website was revised to include active links to local, regional and national resources benefiting LGBTQ youth, their parents, and allies. Average attendance at weekly youth meetings increased by 60% with total visits exceeding 1,300. YO’s first youth impact survey revealed that 70% of youth reported increased self-confidence and a sense of belonging and community as a direct result of their participation in YO.
  • 2013

    Unique youth reached by YO increased by 40%. Cumulative visits exceeded 2,000 and average weekly attendance increased more than 50% in part due to the organization hiring its first part-time youth programs coordinator. YO Prom: Embrace, Encourage, Empower attracted 80 youth from seven WNC counties. Safe Space, a pro bono collaboration with A Visual Link Films, demonstrated the impact YO had on its youth participants, premiered at THE DANCE. YO developed Working with LGBTQ Youth, a seminar for professionals who work with youth .
  • 2014

    Youth Outright premiered Young Voices, an annual fundraising event featuring performances for local LGBTQA youth. The first annual event saw record attendance for a YO event. By years’ end, YO had served # youth through Sunday meetings and special events.
  • 2015

    YO collaborated with UNCA to create an original mainstage theater work Qtopia. The production featured several YO youth participants.

Board Of Directors

  • Our Board

    Our Board of Directors is made up of a wide variety of people from business, education, social services, and other professionals from the community as well as at least one youth member. This diverse group shares a strong common belief in the mission of our organization.

    Youth OUTright, WNC’s LGBTQ youth advocacy organization, is currently seeking new members for our Board of Directors. Board members ensure that YO works toward creating a safe and affirming environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth by leading key committees, developing community partnerships, guiding the direction of YO’s efforts, and participating in fundraising campaigns. Please contact us for more information.

  • Lise Kloeppel, Chair

    Lise Kloeppel, Chair

    A resident of the Asheville area since 2008, Lise Kloeppel is a mother, artist, educator, and organizer who works as an Associate Professor of Drama and the Faculty Director of the Key Center for Service-Learning and Community Citizenship at UNC Asheville. Using arts and culture as a pedagogical and political tool, she strives to activate individuals and communities to develop authentic relationships across difference, engage in meaningful civic dialogue, and imagine and enact more conscious and compassionate ways of living in the world. She integrates her teaching, scholarship/creative activity, and service to co-create real-world learning experiences. One of her current projects is the Queer Youth Theatre Project, a community-based, devised theatre project in collaboration with YO. She teaches courses in community cultural development, acting, theatre education, and theatre for social change. “I continue to be inspired by the YO youth who resist the ‘victim’ label and live each day with a kind of authenticity that many adults yearn to replicate. To me, the heart and soul of YO’s work is to instill in our youth an ever-abundant sense of self-worth and self-efficacy. By investing in the often-times most vulnerable and marginalized young people, we uplift our entire community to be and do better.”
  • Phil Weast, Treasurer

    After forty-one years working in student development at universities and colleges in three states, Phil retired in January 2015. A defining passion in Phil’s life has been working with young people, helping them find themselves, and imagining a successful future. He created student leadership development programs at two major universities. Throughout his adult and professional life, Phil has been committed to community service and involvement with an especially long record of involvement with nonprofits as a board member and/or officer (e.g., Crisis Call Line, YMCA, United Way, Habitat for Humanity, Western Carolinians for Criminal Justice, and Asheville Arts Council). He has substantial experience as a nonprofit consultant and has worked with a range of organizations on board and policy development and strategic planning. Phil lives in Asheville with Bramlett, his partner for over thirty-five years. A volunteer with Youth OUTright for several years, Phil notes: “For me, YO provides the perfect opportunity to continue working with and empowering young people. It is a privilege and honor to be involved with a group offering opportunities and programs for LGBT and queer identified youth my generation rarely experienced.”
  • Carlos Vargas, Secretary

    Carlos Vargas, Secretary

    Carlos Vargas is a full time workaholic. When he’s not working he can be found hiking at Bent Creek with his dachshund, or at home making meals from scratch. He began attending Youth OUTright in the summer of 2009 and shortly thereafter became a board member. His strong desire to help fellow youth like himself lead him to create the organization’s first prom. He brings a unique perspective to the board identifying as an undocumented queer person. “Youth OUTright has helped me to better understand myself and my goals by giving me opportunities to grow with the organization.”
  • Braden Harvey

    Braden has been raised in Asheville for a majority of his life and is currently a senior at Buncombe County Early College, with hopes to graduate next year with a High School Diploma and an Associates Degree in Arts. Braden has been involved with Youth OUTright since middle school and hopes to help empower other youth to embrace and celebrate who they are. When not serving as a Youth Representative on the board, working in retail or doing homework, Braden enjoys exploring downtown Asheville with friends and spending time with his family. “YouthOUTright gave me a space unlike any I’ve had before. Coming in at a fresh age of fourteen, I had no idea what I had gotten myself into and no idea what impact it would have on my life. I’m the person I am today because of Youth OUTright and after two years of never missing a Youth meeting, I have met so many beautiful people and made lifelong friends. I hope to take on more leadership roles and inspire youth that may be in the spot I was years ago.”
  • Briar Buchanan

    Briar Buchanan

    Briar recently graduated from UNC Asheville with a degree in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies. She is passionate about LGBT advocacy and rape prevention. Briar also feels passionately about her two cats, Oso and Puzzo. She enjoys exploring and hiking with her boyfriend as well as reading and drinking excessive amounts of coffee. Youth OUTright is important to Briar because it’s the first place she has felt validated as a queer person. Having grown up in a small, conservative town where there was total LGBT erasure, she understands the importance of a welcoming and affirming community that provides acceptance and education for LGBT teens.
  • Lorena Russell

    Lorena Russell grew up in south Florida before moving to western North Carolina in the 1970s. She taught horseback riding for about 10 years at summer camps near Brevard and in Washington D.C., Towson MD and southern VA. She and her partner Kitty moved to Asheville in the early 1980’s, where Lorena completed her undergraduate degrees in English and German at UNC Asheville and an MLA. She studied at Chapel Hill in English & WMST, with a research focus in queer studies. Since returning to UNC Asheville as faculty in 2002, she has taught a range of classes in English, Humanities & WGSS and currently directs a university critical thinking initiative, the Inquiry ARC. She enjoys photography, gardening and travel.

Youth OUTright, WNC’s LGBTQ youth advocacy organization, is currently seeking new members for our Board of Directors. Board members ensure that YO works toward creating a safe and affirming environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth. Board members do this by leading key committees, developing community partnerships,












  • Employment Opportunities

    There are no openings at this time. Please check our volunteer page for opportunities.